28/09/18 U.K. to host Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit on World Mental Health Day

Are you taking the fucking piss? This is like the child catcher out of Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang chairing a summit on best child care practices.

This is the same Government who’ve reduced the number of beds in psychiatric hospitals by nearly 30% since the beginning of austerity.

….where we have 12% fewer mental health nurses than we had in 2009 with nearly 1700 vacancies in England alone.

….where we appear to be imprisoning our most vulnerable people instead of supporting them

‘Rates of self-inflicted deaths and self-harm in prison have risen significantly in the last five years, suggesting that mental health and well-being in prison has declined. Self-harm rose by 73% between 2012 and 2016. In 2016 there were 40,161 incidents of self-harm in prisons, the equivalent of one incident for every two prisoners. While in 2016 there were 120 self-inflicted deaths in prison, almost twice the number in 2012, and the highest year on record. Government needs to address the rising rates of suicide and self harm in prisons as a matter of urgency.’

Any claims of mental health improvements in prisons need to be taken with a massive pinch of salt according to the National Audit Office…

‘Government does not know how many people in prison have a mental illness, how much it is spending on mental health in prisons or whether it is achieving its objectives. It is therefore hard to see how Government can be achieving value for money in its efforts to improve the mental health and well being of prisoners’

While MP’s celebrate the gig economy, we know that zero hour contracts are bad for people’s health – especially their mental health…

This is having a particularly massive effect on our younger people. You know, the people we call ‘Snowflakes’. The same generation whose suicide rate has increased by 107% in London and 24% in the rest of England and Wales.

Where we’ve removed hopeful futures from our young people with spiralling student debts (around £60k for your average degree) and house prices exceeding 8 times the average salary.

Having already removed most of the safety net, the government has whipped away any hopes of a soft landing with its flagship – if your flagship is the fucking titanic – Universal (Bastard) Credit – benefit regime, where people have to wait 35 days for ANY payment – (try it – in the past, people on benefits had to choose between heating or eating – now they can do neither) with disability benefits that are particularly difficult for people with mental health problems to obtain…

Just in case you become complacent – the Department of Work and Pensions has its secret weapon – The Benefit Sanction – where people with mental health problems are hugely over represented – where you can have you benefits stopped for anything between 3 weeks and….drum roll…3 years for having the audacity to fail to complete a form correctly or for missing an appointment. The DWP already know these people often have massive difficulties in dealing with day to day stuff…because they’ve already received the War and Peace-esque application forms that explain peoples situations in minute detail.

Instead of getting in touch – the DWP display their care and compassion through the medium of stopping someone’s money for an unspecified time.

You don’t just have to take my word for it. A UN Panel has criticised the UK for it’s failure to uphold disabled people’s rights.

Unless the summit on world mental health day (10th of October…did I mention my belief that every day should be world mental health day?) involves our government declaring they’ve created an astonishingly comprehensive shitstorm for people with mental health problems in the U.K. and how they’re going to change things immediately, then a boycott across the board sounds like a rather splendid idea.

Walk a Mile

Chris

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26/09/18 Walk a Mile: The Return

This year…BOOM!! coming to a coastal path near you…KERBLEWY!!!! Walk a Mile is back…THE SOUND ONE OF THOSE REALLY CHEAP FIREWORKS MAKES IN YOUR BACK GARDEN!!

After a significant period of pillocking about, after a cacophony of distractions, Walk a Mile is coming back, and….

IT’LL BE EXACTLY THE SAME AS BEFORE!!!

Er…boom…

For the uninitiated, Walk a Mile was a campaign I started back in 2011 with the simple aim of highlighting the experiences of people with mental health problems.

After being disabled out of Social Work…the job I loved/ hated/ loved to hate because of a diagnosis of Borderline (Bastard) Personality Disorder, and 2 years of wonderful group psychotherapy, I decided going back to social work would drive me nuts.

I needed some altogether new shenanigans to get up to.

I decided it would be a grand(iose) idea to walk around the edge of our lovely country, because that’s where many folk with mental health problems feel they are…on the edge of society.

Ok, it’s a bit of a showy metaphor…

Before I left, my good friends, Maggie and Jim, took me aside and told me to read, ‘No Destination’ by Satish Kumar – a Jain Monk who, in the ‘60’s went on a peace march.

Paraphrasing massively, his guru told him to take no money with him – if he did, he wouldn’t have the motivation to speak to people at the end of the day and the only people he’d meet would be hoteliers.

I thought if this fine man could walk from India into Pakistan expecting, and receiving, wonderful hospitality from the people he met when the 2 countries were at war, then surely I could expect something similar from the fine people of the U.K..

And look at me…I’m starving to death…

(Imagine an image of Buddha…in a skirt…looking a bit like Phil Mitchell/ a bouncer…perfect)

As with many things I do, this journey has not been without detours, cul-de-sacs and general shenanigans…and more than a little craziness.

So, to cut that story short…it’s involved…

The wonderful generosity of people…their stories…dissociation…tales of a Wandering Loon…a whole host of mental health campaigns…Save Safe Haven in Corby, #LetsWalkAMile around Scotland and other stuff…Lyme disease (bit of free advice – don’t ever get Lyme disease…it’s a bastard) and a hole host of other stuff…including the publication of Walk a Mile the book…

I’ve spoken to friends about new and improved ways to start back – ‘Walk a Mile Rebooted’ – was one of my favourites.

Great fun though these have been, they’ve been a bit of a distraction from what I think is the main event.

No, not the walk…walk a Mile is all about the talk.

I’ve met and been supported by roughly a bazillion folk on my way…people I’ve bumped into on the street, on the beach, in the woods…ok, on Twitter and Facebook too…who’ve been happy to talk about mental ill health…theirs, mine, their friends/ families…

The people I’ve spoken with have been 100% fabulous – kind, generous, inquisitive, hilarious, sharing everything with me from a kind word and a peanut butter sandwich to a few days in their homes to allow me to get to know them better.

It’s been a wonderfully life affirming experience.

But look at me…I’ve already waffled on too long…

I’ll be taking to the road/ cycle path (insert your own jokes there), highways and byways in November.

Starting back in Porthmadog…

Where the…?

In North Wales…you know that pointy bit at the top of Wales? I think it looks a bit like Fred Flintstone’s eyebrow…yes, it’s just underneath that.

Unlike Satish Kumar, I’ll be pulling a trailer (Hubert) carrying my Rucksack (Darth II) with a cuddly green tortoise (Wilson) on the back.

I’ll keep you posted

Walk a Mile

Chris

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13/09/18 Man Up Snowflake!!

#OneEmptySeat

Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 in the U.K.

Suicides in all young people aged between 10 and 19 have doubled in London since 2013.

That increase has been 25% across the rest of the country.

In a world where we’re constantly telling our younger folk to

‘MAN UP!’,

one of the biggest problems for your day to day mental health campaigner is,

‘How do we engage with your average folk in the street?’

We hold campaigns and walks and runs and underwater pig wrestling (I might have made the last one up) events across mainstream and social media – where thousands of folk – usually the same people – get involved and make a noise.

How do we get the bazillion other people in the U.K. to get involved in the conversation?

I watched the footballer, Marvin Sordell talking about his experience of depression on the BBC’s Victoria programme this morning.

Every weekend we have millions of folk, men and women, boys and girls, getting behind their favourite teams.

Millions.

In the U.K., one person takes their own life every 90 minutes.

It’s time we marked those deaths – treating them with the same anger, sadness and indignation we reserve for murder and terrorism – in a way that grabs the attention of everyone.

#OneEmptySeat combined with one minute’s silence at EVERY FOOTBALL MATCH would begin to focus the minds of millions.

We can and we will change this.

Walk a Mile

Chris

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10/09/18 World Suicide Prevention Day

It’s world suicide prevention day.

I fucking hate awareness days like these – especially since EVERY day should be suicide prevention day.

Why?

Because it’s the biggest killer of men under 50 in the U.K.

That’s right – more men under 50 die by suicide than from cancer or road traffic accidents.

Last year 5,821 people took their own lives in the U.K.

That’s 1 person every 90 minutes. I’d really like you to think about that this weekend when you’re watching your football favourite team.

1 person every 90 minutes.

Last week the BBC told us that deaths by suicide in men had reduced to its lowest level since 1981.

Before we all throw our collective hats in the air in celebration, consider this…

Suicides in young Londoners, aged between 10 and 19, doubled last year – rising by 25% in the rest of the country.

Ordinarily, I’d take some time to explain why I think this is happening.

But I don’t need to, do I?

You already know, don’t you?

Bloody Snowflakes!

What a wonderfully convenient label – a victim blaming assault on our young people that shifts the responsibility from you and me onto them.

A generation where we’ve left many devoid of hope with spiralling university fees, unobtainable mortgages for houses that cost 8 times the average salary, soaring rental prices for those who can’t even dream of the first rung of the property ladder, an astonishingly unequal education system that hinges on the failure of thousands, adding to ever increasing exam stress, zero hour contracts…sorry, Bastard zero hour contracts…a benefits system built on punishment, mistrust, control and fear…We have the jauntily named ‘Universal Credit’ where folk, discarded from their zero hour none-jobs, have to wait 35 days before they get any money.

Think about it – 5 weeks with no money!

And yet we’re told that people use foodbanks for ‘Complex Reasons’.

With the old system people were forced to make the choice between heating and eating…now they can do neither!

Homelessness has grown exponentially…

How do we deal with this home made mental health epidemic? We cut mental health services. Did I say ‘cut’ ? Sorry, we decimate health and social care where there’s little or no joined up services as our young people make that transition into adulthood.

People are desperately trying to get treatment for their mental ill health – rapidly realising they need to tread that precarious tightrope, hoping, often in vane, their mental malady will sit neatly in that ‘Goldilocks’ zone where they’re just the right amount of crazy – a step either side and they, we, don’t get the support we deserve.

Throw a bit of stigma into the mix – ‘attention seeking’, ‘manipulative’, ‘not engaging with services’ and we’ve got a perfect storm…

Oh, and our prisons are bursting at the seams with an ever increasing population of folk with mental health problems – people who need understanding, treatment and support rather than incarceration.

And yet…and yet, we persist with this ridiculous ‘Snowflake’ smear. That insult is nothing short of disgusting.

When we’re asked why our younger people are more stressed, we shrug and give the revoltingly vague response, ‘The Internet…?’

Fuck off!!!

If anything the internet offers information – granted, some of it shonky – forums and support from people with shared experiences. What would you do if you couldn’t get support from anywhere else?

As for the claims that deaths from suicide are reducing in men, I’d suggest you take that with a large pinch of salt.

In 2011, professor David Gunnell suggested that as many as 6% of suicides were being misclassified as accidents as more and more coronors inquests are ending with ‘narrative verdicts’ (increasing from 111 in 2001 to 3012 in 2009).

I’m as surprised as you possibly are – I really thought the process was altogether more scientific.

We are the 6th wealthiest country in the world – the support, care and compassion we give to our most vulnerable people should reflect that.

I make no apologies for my anger here. These are desperate times. I think it’s time to treat each and every suicide with the same anger, despair and indignation we reserve for murder and terrorism. This is a humanitarian crisis of our own making, and it’s the responsibility of all of us to step up to the plate. Care, compassion, empathy and support are not purely the domain of the mental health professional.

I appreciate you may feel anxious about supporting someone with a mental health problem – but don’t let that anxiety turn into inertia. We can all do something.

You can take the first step today by following this link that takes you through some straightforward steps to take when you feel concern for someone’s psychological wellbeing.

Every day is world suicide awareness day.

Walk a Mile

Chris

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10/09/18 Stephen Fry ate my Gerbil!!

Close friends of the beloved actor, author and voice over guy to the stars tell me he vociferously denies the heinous…

It’s world suicide prevention day.

I fucking hate awareness days like these – especially since EVERY day should be suicide prevention day.

Why?

Because it’s the biggest killer of men under 50 in the U.K.

That’s right – more men under 50 die by suicide than from cancer or road traffic accidents.

Last year 5,821 people took their own lives in the U.K.

That’s 1 person every 90 minutes. I’d really like you to think about that this weekend when you’re watching your football favourite team.

1 person every 90 minutes.

Last week the BBC told us that deaths by suicide in men had reduced to its lowest level since 1981.

Before we all throw our collective hats in the air in celebration, consider this…

Suicides in young Londoners, aged between 10 and 19, doubled last year – rising by 25% in the rest of the country.

Ordinarily, I’d take some time to explain why I think this is happening.

But I don’t need to, do I?

You already know, don’t you?

Bloody Snowflakes!

What a wonderfully convenient label – a victim blaming assault on our young people that shifts the responsibility from you and me onto them.

A generation where we’ve left many devoid of hope with spiralling university fees, unobtainable mortgages for houses that cost 8 times the average salary, soaring rental prices for those who can’t even dream of the first rung of the property ladder, an astonishingly unequal education system that hinges on the failure of thousands, adding to ever increasing exam stress, zero hour contracts…sorry, Bastard zero hour contracts…a benefits system built on punishment, mistrust, control and fear…We have the jauntily named ‘Universal Credit’ where folk, discarded from their zero hour none-jobs, have to wait 35 days before they get any money.

Think about it – 5 weeks with no money!

And yet we’re told that people use foodbanks for ‘Complex Reasons’.

With the old system people were forced to make the choice between heating and eating…now they can do neither!

Homelessness has grown exponentially…

How do we deal with this home made mental health epidemic? We cut mental health services. Did I say ‘cut’ ? Sorry, we decimate health and social care where there’s little or no joined up services as our young people make that transition into adulthood.

People are desperately trying to get treatment for their mental ill health – rapidly realising they need to tread that precarious tightrope, hoping, often in vane, their mental malady will sit neatly in that ‘Goldilocks’ zone where they’re just the right amount of crazy – a step either side and they, we, don’t get the support we deserve.

Throw a bit of stigma into the mix – ‘attention seeking’, ‘manipulative’, ‘not engaging with services’ and we’ve got a perfect storm…

Oh, and our prisons are bursting at the seams with an ever increasing population of folk with mental health problems – people who need understanding, treatment and support rather than incarceration.

And yet…and yet, we persist with this ridiculous ‘Snowflake’ smear. That insult is nothing short of disgusting.

When we’re asked why our younger people are more stressed, we shrug and give the revoltingly vague response, ‘The Internet…?’

Fuck off!!!

If anything the internet offers information – granted, some of it shonky – forums and support from people with shared experiences. What would you do if you couldn’t get support from anywhere else?

As for the claims that deaths from suicide are reducing in men, I’d suggest you take that with a large pinch of salt.

In 2011, professor David Gunnell suggested that as many as 6% of suicides were being misclassified as accidents as more and more coronors inquests are ending with ‘narrative verdicts’ (increasing from 111 in 2001 to 3012 in 2009).

I’m as surprised as you possibly are – I really thought the process was altogether more scientific.

We are the 6th wealthiest country in the world – the support, care and compassion we give to our most vulnerable people should reflect that.

I make no apologies for my anger here. These are desperate times. I think it’s time to treat each and every suicide with the same anger, despair and indignation we reserve for murder and terrorism. This is a humanitarian crisis of our own making, and it’s the responsibility of all of us to step up to the plate. Care, compassion, empathy and support are not purely the domain of the mental health professional.

I appreciate you may feel anxious about supporting someone with a mental health problem – but don’t let that anxiety turn into inertia. We can all do something.

You can take the first step today by following this link that takes you through some straightforward steps to take when you feel concern for someone’s psychological wellbeing.

Just to be clear…the ubiquitous Stephen Fry didn’t eat my gerbil…

And every day is world suicide awareness day.

Walk a Mile

Chris

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09/08/18 Euthanasia and mental ill health

****mentions suicidal ideation***

I read this article today,

‘The troubled 29-year-old helped to die by Dutch doctors’

with a mixture of feelings from hollow sadness, to anger, to frustration, finally settling down on, good God, that could have been me.

It’s easy to slip into the ‘Parity of Esteem’ argument – where we can say, ‘If Euthenasia is seen as a viable option for people with an intolerable/ terminal physical condition, then surely the same choice should be given to folk with mental health problems.’

Or something very similar.

I can only speak from my personal experience here – but I don’t think our society is anywhere near ready for the euthanasia of me or any of my peers.

Our society – sadly – is both discriminating and stigmatising.

If we could look at a specific mental health problem in a vacuum away from this, then I think it would be worth consideration.

However, we are told, almost on a daily basis, that we are a burden on society.

We’re benefit scroungers – living off society – habitually drinking and smoking with our flat screen TV’s and mobile phones and our hordes of children…

To amplify this 10 fold, our welfare system has been made so laughingly impossible for applicants with mental health problems that the underclaiming of benefits is a much bigger problem than fraud.

The NHS describes us as a disease burden. But no, we shouldn’t take offence, that’s a technical term to describe the cost our maladies might have on society.

This feeling of being a burden is perpetuated in the media – through TV shows and news stories – so much so, that when someone develops a mental health problem we seldom consider the environment that caused, grew and cultured that problem.

Very quickly the person and not the cause becomes the problem.

That’s galvanised when many of us are told we’re not engaging with services. Services that are often set up to ensure the wellbeing of the organisation and not the person…

And yet…the shortcomings in the services become our problem. We can either be ‘too mad’ or ‘not mad enough’ to get access to the help we need.

Wild, eh?

We have housing providers that can legitimately say, ‘No benefits’ as they pass the responsibility onto the buy to let mortgage lenders who can also say ‘No’ to people on benefits.

We know that disability hate crime is on the increase – and yet the belief that folk with mental health problems are a danger to society dominates when the reverse is true.

Imagine experiencing suicidal ideation in this kind of environment?

I have, and I still do. It’s more easily managed now that I know to treat it like the imposter it is. For me it’s a defence mechanism – a pretty desperate one that allows me to consider there’s an escape from the racket in my head.

If I’d been offered euthanasia when I was 29, I can’t honestly say what I would have done. Those intense, terrifying feelings combined with the steady drip feed of how I, and people like me were a burden would have made it a very tempting option.

My life’s great – except for that third of the time where I dissociate. I’ve a horrible feeling I would have missed out on that had the option to take my life with medical assistance had presented itself to me.

I don’t pretend to have the answers here, but without getting our society in order, I really believe we can’t begin to consider euthanasia for people with mental health problems.

Walk a Mile

Chris

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04/08/18 Borderline (Bastard) Personality Disorder

So, you’ve survived your Hellish childhood. You’ve been abused either sexually or physically – sometimes both.

You may have experienced neglect, poverty, bereavement…

You may have found yourself on the periphery of your world – your family – your fellow students – often your friends – your work colleagues…

You may be fortunate enough to have negotiated these rocky waters unscathed. Alternatively, you may have developed any or all of a cluster of symptoms that serve to make your days … fucking challenging.

Your reward for all this?

A label – a destructive diagnosis laced with prejudice…

Borderline Personality Disorder.

Go on, try it on for size.

Yes, I know, it sounds pretty meaningless, doesn’t it?

Borderline of what?

Personality Disorder??

Where’s the acknowledgement of all the shit and trauma you’ve gone through?

Well, in the ‘60’s, doctor whoever wotsisname found there were patients who didn’t fit neatly under either psychosis.

or neurosis

deciding that there was a group of folk – my people – who hovered somewhere in between.

To my mind, the creator of this label went to the same school of wilful dingbats as those who sought to call elephants ‘pachyderms’.

For those of you who aren’t up to date with your Latin, ‘pachy’ means ‘thick’, ‘derm’ means ‘skin’.

If only they’d taken a couple of steps backwards, they’d have seen the elephant (in the room) in its full glory.

But no…instead we’re left with an umbrella term for a cluster of symptoms that carry with them seemingly endless judgement from many of the professionals, friends and family charged with our care.

‘Attention seeking’

‘Manipulative’

‘Dishonest’

‘Violent’

In recent times, it would appear there has been a push to destigmatise the condition by the folk who come up with the names for mental maladies…

In the U.K., we’re now referred to as people with ‘Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder’

That’s better! That’s so much less judgemental, isn’t it?

Hey, wait a minute! ‘Emotionally unstable!?’ I thought it was the ‘Personality Disorder’ bit that was brimming with stigma?

So, imagine going through much of the shitstorm that was your early life, only to be given this bastard diagnosis that breeds prejudice.

A diagnosis that doesn’t go any way to acknowledge what happened to you.

Everyone I know who’s ‘attracted the label’ of borderline personality disorder has either suffered abuse, neglect and/ or a steady drip feed of exclusion in their early lives.

Everyone.

Take a step back. What are we dealing with here?

We are more than a cluster of symptoms. We are people who’ve experienced trauma while we were growing up – where we developed any number of emotional defence mechanisms to see us through. Defence mechanisms that served us well at the time of the trauma, but now…? Well, not so much.

Borderline Personality Disorder is a result of trauma.

I’d like to suggest it was a kind of post traumatic stress condition – but that doesn’t tell the full story.

Paradoxically, receiving that label, a diagnosis we’d hope would be the gateway to the effective treatment of this bastard condition, has instead led to more trauma, through the institutional prejudice inherent in a system that asks ‘What’s wrong with you?’ instead of ‘What happened to you?’

That way, the person with the label becomes the problem. Not what happened to them. Not the way they’re treated by society. Not the shortcomings in services…

It’s you.

You’re the problem.

Imagine that?

You’ve gone through all that shit. You’re faced with health and social care services who, at the drop of a hat, will declare you’re failing to engage with services.

The conclusion? The services aren’t shit. You are.

And then folk have the audacity to tell us not to fall foul of ‘Self Stigma’.

I mean, just because everyone else sees you as shit, doesn’t mean you should join in.

This needs to be addressed at every level, root, stem and branch. The whole systemic treatment of folk like me is flawed.

We could try ‘Post traumatic stress disorder’ ?

It’s not that simple though, is it?

We could whack the word ‘complex’ at the beginning…?

Closer…but no cigar.

‘Post’ suggests the trauma is a thing of the past.

Hopefully I’ve encouraged you to look further than that. Because of the way we’re still treated across society – at home, at school, in college, university…at work, or by the welfare system…

This is trauma – nothing less.

Walk a Mile

Chris

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